The Breakfast Table

Harry Potter and the Cloak of Green

Dearest J,

I feel about as lovely and green-eyed as Thelma Ritter. I’ve got tomato manure under my nails and there’s corn silk all over the kitchen floor from last night’s dinner. My son’s leaving for Amsterdam this afternoon (shlep to JFK airport) and I feel I should bone up on The Sources of Normativity by Christine Korsgaard (he’s a poli-sci professor) so that on the trip to the airport I can say more than “Honey, did you bring the melatonin?” Instead, I will toss around my own clever version of the Kantian account and be very un-Mommyish.

I do think it would be an interesting world if Simon Schama were as widely read as Harry Potter (you know what I mean–I daresay Simon Schama himself is as well-read as little Harry Potter and everyone else on the best-seller list put together, with room left over). It’s pretty clear that the green crinkly silk cloak represents what Schama describes in The Embarrassment of Riches–I want to find a way, like the 17th-century Dutch, to be both rich and good. Actually, I don’t feel that I’d have any trouble with that … it’s what I’d have to do to get rich (and therefore pick up the crinkly green silk shmatte) that causes me trouble.

Speaking of goodness and moral ambiguity, I was surprised to see a review in the Times of one young woman author’s very first novel, by another young woman novelist whose first novel was about to come out. Perhaps that was to be provocative? Of course, I know I’m taking my writerly life in my hands even mentioning it (rather like Lord Voldemort, You-Know-Who … of course, I’ve read them all …).

This last one was a little sluggish for me, but I like Harry and the magic tricks and I do like Snape the evil professor who is, in fact, unkind, but somehow, clearly not evil at all, rather reluctantly, under the viciousness, good–not soft, not nice, not a heart of gold, but fundamentally a moral person, which is a rare distinction in children’s–or even adult–fiction.

Write back.